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deadmau5 Talks Audio vs. Video Quality for Live Streaming

It stands to reason that electronic music icon deadmau5 would prioritize audio over video in his live streams, but it's not that simple. Much of it comes down to how his audience consumes music online, prevailing trends in device usage, and more.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, Chair, Streaming Media Conferences, and CMO, id3as, begins by mentioning that one of the “encoding gurus” of the streaming industry, Ben Waggoner, “Used to begin all his presentations at our events by saying, ‘Streaming is the art of taking amazing video and audio and making it look and sound worse!’ No matter what you do, there’s going to be some sacrifices.” He asks deadmau5, who is also an equity partner in Stream Voodoo, “How do you make the decisions about what sort of sacrifices you're willing to make for a given event or a given stream? You’re a musician, is audio quality always more important than video?”

Deadmau5 says that he can’t help but think of the highest quality outputs when he is producing his music. “I make music [with] this kind of attitude that, ‘Oh yeah, I really think everyone's sitting barefoot in their living room with the McIntosh AMP and the $5,000 DAC, and they've got this beautiful ATC set up, just, ‘Zen-ing’ out listening to music, and that's the way it was produced and intended to be heard and stuff like that.’” But he notes that even in major music venues, he cannot count on a high-quality audio experience for the attendees due to various factors, including crowd noise and possibly his own inebriation. “I might have had six beers too many,” he says. But he also says, "I go to a venue and then throw up like this massive K2 array and just blast at 130 DB...it sounds [terrible]. And that's not because of the sound company. It's not because of the product. It's not because of me. It's just it's the venue. You’re party facilitating at that point, you know?”

But overall, deadmau5 says, “Do I want to deliver exact quality out to the world? Not really, you know what I mean? Audio quality would be important if it was a controlled stream from a controlled studio environment, and I was piping that in directly as [it was] intended to be heard and stuff like that.” But he notes that most of his listeners are consuming his music on already heavily encoded platforms like Spotify and YouTube. “My fan base is more likely to YouTube a song than listen to it,” he says. “And the purists will be like, ‘Well, I have it in lossless audio. And it's like, it's not, you know what I mean?”

Schumacher-Rasmussen agrees that some compromise is warranted to serve a fan base best. “You know, I admire the hell out of Neil Young,” he says. “But to go to the extreme of saying, ‘I'm going to deny my music to people who don't listen to it in the sound quality that I deem acceptable,’ that's not really a viable solution either.”

Deadmau5 compares various states of intoxication from various drugs as an example of the pointlessness of changing the tech for audio output, if the audience is already consuming the music in a compromised way. “Drunk is drunk. Stoned is stoned. Okay?” he says. “I had a really funny conversation. This is kind of off the menu in some states, but I was at a friend's house, and I don't smoke weed at all. I can't, because if I do, I'm out. I either have to go to the hospital, or a cop is going to show up even though it's legal. Or my mom's gonna walk in dressed as a cop. You know what I mean? I just cannot handle weed. I have all these friends that are like, ‘Oh, well, you’ve got to try indica, you have to try sativa, you have to try this. You’ve got to do this different thing. It's like, ‘Yo! Drunk is drunk.’ How many people have gone up to you to say, ‘Okay, listen, I got super blackout wasted last night, I'm never doing that again.’ They're like, ‘Oh man, you’ve gotta switch from wine to beer.’ No dude! I'm still gonna get wasted. I might get in a fight."

“So I don't think changing the brand is going to give you this different desired output unless you're a sommelier,” he says. “And in the audio and streaming world, we have sommeliers. I've got my 192 kHz 24-bit. And I can hear that – not because I'm Rick Rubin but because I've got a pair of $85,000 monitors up there that are transparent enough to deliver that difference. So there's so many factors that go from delivery to reception that make it known that it's like, ‘Oh wow, the quality of this is really good.’ Right? And then you go out, and you've got this kid jamming out to his favorite song out his iPhone speakers, probably having just as much of the time of his life as Rick Rubin is, you know, ‘Zen-ing’ out in his bare feet!”

Learn more about live streaming audio and video quality at Streaming Media East 2023.

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